We spoke to Regina Schönberger, who founded her own business ‘wild woman underwear’. With Movmeon she talks about her time in consulting and why she decided to run her own business after more than five years at BCG.
Let’s start with your journey into consulting. How did you end up starting your career at Boston Consulting Group, one of the largest and most well-known consultancies?
I’m someone who joined management consulting spontaneously – I hadn’t planned it for years, and didn’t do the right internships or study programmes years in advance. In my final year of my master’s, I realised that I didn’t want to stay in academia or join the non-profit sector (I studied Development Studies). Instead, I wanted to join a challenging work environment where I could quickly learn about different industries and frankly, figure out what I really wanted to do. That’s how I started with BCG!
After more than five years at BCG, you started your own business, ‘wild woman underwear’. Was self-employment always your dream or how did this step come about? In retrospect, would you have preferred to take this step earlier?
Deep down I had known for years that I wanted to run my own business, but I didn’t think I was “ready”. While I enjoyed my time at BCG, I also quickly realised that I needed a lot more flexibility and responsibility. I wanted to be the one to call the shots, or better, I didn’t want to align myself with my project leaders and partners about every step of the way. Also, I realised that I couldn’t work on the topics I was really passionate about, so it was time for me to take the next step.
I believe that everything happens at the right time. Of course, I could have started the business earlier, I was ready in terms of my skills and knowledge. But I didn’t feel ready mentally and that’s a crucial part of getting started and keeping at it.
Would you say that your time and especially the experience you have gained in consulting over the years are helpful for you as a founder of your own company?
Definitely. My work at BCG taught me to solve problems relentlessly, to literally not give up and find a solution no matter what. And that’s something I do on a daily basis in my own business. Consulting is an excellent school for diligence, precision and communication. I couldn’t have wished for a better foundation.
What do you think were the most important lessons you learned during your time in consulting that you now benefit from?
- There is always a solution. As a consultant, I used to be irritated by partners who would push you to deliver a solution no matter how difficult it was to get the data or convince the client. It stressed me out that “this is not possible” was not accepted as an answer. But eventually, I got it and I understood the beauty of the approach of always finding a way to resolve a challenge (even if that means to caveat the solution by adding a bunch of footnotes, it’s better than nothing.. ;))
- Communication is key. In the beginning, I would never understand why we’d have to add another call-out box or yet some highlighting feature to underline the key information. But throughout the years, I realised that communicating your message well and highlighting what your audience might be concerned about will win them over. It’s super critical to tell a story in a comprehensible way, whether it’s a CEO of a major corporation or a potential customer.
- Structure is king. I still use the same format and logic for naming my documents even though I felt that it was pedantic at first. But having a structure is incredibly helpful to stay on top of everything. And it starts with something small as knowing which document has the right information. It also applies to so many other areas of running a business, for example, using tools to run your workstreams efficiently, implementing regular check-ins to ensure steady progress, sending out follow-up emails after any conversation, etc. Again, consulting is a great way to learn these basics in a way that they become a part of how you think and do anything.
What advice would you give to other consultants who also consider starting their own business?
If you know what industry you might be working in with your business, try to focus on that industry during your years in consulting. Beyond the basics of consulting, it is quite helpful to know some of the industry specifics and leverage them once you’re on your own.
While I do believe that everything happens at the right time, I also think that starting a business is a major life altering experience that might be easier to digest earlier in your consulting career. Once you’ve reached a certain point in your career, you might feel too intimidated to give up on all the comfort of a steady salary and lucrative benefits.
Lastly, don’t stress, you’ll find a solution for pretty much anything that comes your way.